This spring and summer, the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and adult-care facilities or with secondary medical issues, served as prey for COVID-19.

Now, students are next to suffer the slings and arrows of the coronavirus. But it won’t be illness. It will be the stress produced by the uncertainty of going to school for in-person instruction for the first time since March, the possibility of another semester of remote learning, or a hybrid of the two.

Either way, students will be staying home if COVID-19 cases spike again.

The tension of this will-we-stay-or-will-we-go uncertainty is already being felt at the college level. To name two examples, Barnard College in New York City closed its campus just days before students were supposed to move into the dorms, and SUNY Oneonta in central New York sent its students home after an astonishing 600 positive tests on the campus heralded a new and dangerous hot spot.

New York state is weighing a mandatory flu vaccine for children to return to school. An inoculation program may prevent students from contracting and transmitting the flu while the coronavirus continues to make its presence felt. But why did the state wait until the last minute — students in Greene and Columbia counties are set to return to school Tuesday — to propose it?

The unease produced by COVID-19 and what might turn out to be unrealistic plans to reopen schools are wreaking havoc on education in this area. Our children need the personal touch of a classroom setting to get a good education. But they also need the security that schools can offer.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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